Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Ministry of Presence

So last week we had homeless families staying in our church overnight every night.  People come and prepare the dinners every evening.  Some prepare breakfasts.  Some help them with their evening activities.  I was asked to stay overnight with the families one evening.

It's not a hard job.  It does not require any particular skill set, just being willing to sleep on an air mattress.  It's always possible that there will be a middle-of-the-night emergency, but it hasn't happened yet.

So what I do is come over and meet the families, and talk with them, and, at some point, go to sleep on an air mattress in a room nearby.  That's it.

This was a particularly easy week.  There were just two moms and two babies.  One of the babies was teething, and this required a little extra rocking and singing, which is something that I can do, although I claim no special skill at rocking and singing.  I do know this one Swedish song that my grandfather sang to me when I was a little girl.

Then on Saturday morning, I got up and went home.

When I got home, my husband told me "There's more bad news."  It does seem like there has been a lot of bad news lately, but this morning there had been an attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  Tree of Life.  We watched in horror, as the news unfolded.

Later on I went to visit a shut in couple from our congregation.  She had just broken her ankle.  Their daughter was staying with them over the weekend, helping them out.  We all sat down for conversation and communion.  I found out their daughter was active in a small Baptist church with a large children's ministry.  She worked with third graders; some of them came from "tough backgrounds".  I could tell that she loved working with the children and giving them a firm foundation.  They decided that despite their size, they could somehow make an impact on the children in their community.

We had all been watching the news, too, about the synagogue.  We talked about how it was the older people who were there that morning.  How many of our churches are filled with older people?

The daughter asked me about something she had heard on the news.  "They said it was Shabbat," she said.  "What is Shabbat?"

It is the Sabbath, I answered.  It was their Saturday morning worship service.

We read the gospel, prayed together, shared Holy Communion.

All this week, I've been thinking about that widow, the one who gave her last two copper coins.  Like they would do any good, compared with the enormity of the world's tragedy.  Why did she give them?  Other than as a sermon illustration, what good would they do?

And yet it was her whole life.  So small.

You sleep overnight with the homeless families, or you make them a meal.  You visit shut-ins, and you give them just a little piece of bread, an a sip of wine.  You make someone a meal, or you just sit there while someone cries, because, what else can you do? You go to worship, like you always do.  You go for God, and you go for the other people who will be there.  You are present, and you are giving your whole life.

All God asks is for us to be present to Him, which means to be present to one another.  Be there.  Be the widow with her two copper coins.  Or, at least SEE the widow with her two copper coins.

All God asks is our whole life.  No special skills are needed.

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